Just a quick recap….
After the Fall, the Lord God first worked with a few people, those who we call the Patriarchs (Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph). About 400 years after Joseph, YHWH raised up Moses to lead Israel out of Egypt and through the wilderness. Sadly, Moses was not permitted to enter the Promised Land because he disobeyed YHWH in front of the Israelites. Joshua, Moses’ 2nd in command, became the new leader and brought Israel into the Promised Land. Joshua was an excellent military commander who walked with God. God used Joshua to wipe out most of the Canaanite tribes in the Promised Land. The Canaanites were very evil people, many were giants (mixed human/nephilim seed), worshipping their pagan ‘gods’ (demons), Baal, Asherah, and others.
At the time of Joshua’s death, there was no other strong or Godly leader to take the reigns of Israel’s leadership. At this time, the Israelites were pretty much scattered throughout the Promised Land, living independently of each other in the portion allotted to their tribe. There was no central leader to point Israel to YHWH, the God of their forefathers, and the enemy used this to “divide and conquer”.
The Israelites, who had been nomadic for over 40 years, had to learn how to farm the very fertile land. At the same time, they did NOT obey God’s Will because they did NOT entirely drive the Canaanites out of the land. Just as God had forewarned through Joshua, these Canaanites quickly became a snare to Israel. The name Canaan means lowland, and also means “land of purple” (a purple dye was extracted from a murex shellfish found in the area). The Canaanites were experienced farmers, and the Israelites soon began to look to them to find the answers to their problems. The Israelites intermingled and intermarried with the Canaanites. They even began adopting their pagan religious practices to gain prosperity in the land.
These Canaanite pagan worship practices that included child sacrifice and immoral sex rituals were an abomination to YHWH, but they were “attractive” to the Israelites, who had long forgotten their promises to the True God. The Canaanite religion became a snare to the Israelites, who were soon engaging in these practices. YHWH became angry with the Israelites, and repeatedly handed them over to their enemies (of which there were many). Then the Israelites would remember YHWH, cry out to Him, and YHWH, who was very compassionate, would “raise up” special people known as “judges” to defend the Israelites against the invading enemies.
This cycle repeated over and over again in the book of Judges from about 1250 – 1020BC. In the book of Judges, a “judge” wasn’t always a legal representative, but a person of wisdom, and often a military commander who defended the Israelites against their enemies. One of the coolest things about the people that God “raised up” is that most of them were pretty ordinary people. The only thing extraordinary about Israel’s judges is that they trusted YHWH in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.
The judges that were raised up by God offered the only bright spots during this period in Israel’s HIS STORY. Some of the most well known judges include Gideon, Deborah, and Samson. Gideon is known for defeating a HUGE Midianite army with a tiny rag tag band of about 300 men (Gideon’s army). The Lord purposely had Gideon lead a tiny army to make it absolutely clear that it was God who was the victor, not the gigantic size of the Israelite army.
Deborah, another well known judge in Israel’s HIS STORY, highlights the fact that God uses whomever HE chooses, man or woman, to achieve His purposes. In the midst of the sin and idolatry, Deborah remained true to YHWH and His Word. She was wise and God fearing, and the people flocked to her for advice and help. Deborah held court beneath a palm-tree, in the open air. There, where everyone could hear her, she warned the Jewish people and urged them to leave their evil ways and return to YHWH. The entire Jewish nation respected this great prophetess.
Samson was another judge who was well known for his great strength that was used to defeat the Philistines. Samson is a really awesome Biblical Character because he’s alot like you and me, a fallible human. He made a lot of mistakes early on in his “career”, was seduced and betrayed by the Philistine woman Delilah, but then repented, turned to God, and was used mightily to defeat the Philistines. Samson is a story of normal human failure, repentance, and redemption. We tend to think of Biblical figures as “holier than thou”; however, just like the rest of us, these Biblical heroes of the faith made mistakes, they sinned, but ultimately, they trusted God, and they generally repented at some point in their lives, and God used them mightily!